While one SAS gets all the headlines at Liverpool, there is another that is arguably just as important to the club's hopes of success.
Last week I wrote an article about Liverpool’s defensive performance against Stoke City.
While the Reds had been brilliant going forward, the three goals they conceded could easily have seen them drop points – were it not for the brilliance of Luis Suarez and a goal-scoring return for his strike-partner Daniel Sturridge.
What I discovered was that Brendan Rodgers’ side desperately missed Mamadou Sakho, who was unavailable through injury.
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A quick look at the statistics showed that the Frenchman was one of the Reds' best defensive prospects, bettering Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure when it came to successful tackles, interceptions won and successful duels.
He is also second only to Skrtel when it comes to aerial challenges won.
In short, Sakho and his Slovak teammate are Liverpool’s best centre-back pairing, and if Rodgers is able to play them together regularly, Liverpool have every chance of securing the top four place their players and fans crave.
It was a reader of my earlier article who pointed out the connection between Liverpool’s front-men and their defensive line. While the SAS of Suarez and Sturridge is regularly and rightly heralded as a very special partnership indeed, the other SAS – Sakho and Skrtel – have just as vital a role to play in the months ahead.
While some believe it will be a three-horse race between Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea for the Premier League title, the truth is the Reds are currently in possession of the best player in England – and if not the best then certainly the second-best currently plying his trade in Europe – and if they can stick with a formidable and improving centre-back pairing, they could still gate-crash the party.
To ensure Champions League football – and a potential trophy to boot – goals scored is only half the mission (even with the form Suarez finds himself in). Rodgers must also hope his strongest defenders remain fit and available right through until May.
If they do, the defensive SAS could send the Reds back into Europe’s elite…and ensure the long-term future of one of the other men with that initial as a result.
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